In defense of Jack Taylor’s 138-point game

November 24, 2012 in Basketball, Sport

More surprising than the 138-point game by Jack Taylor game has been the overwhelming negativity directed at the jaw-dropping performance from the 5’10″ guard from Grinnell College in Dallas.

For those unfamiliar with the feat, Taylor, a sophomore who actually played lacrosse last year, scored 138 points in Grinnell’s high-octane 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible in an NCAA Division IIII game on Tuesday night.

Taylor had struggled with his shot in his first two games of the season, but on this night he hit 52 of his 108 shot attempts (!!), including 27 of 71 from three-point range (!!!). He was also 7 of 10 from the free throw line. He played 36 out of a possible 40 minutes.

To rationalize how the feat was possible, know that Grinnell coach David Arsenault employs a crazy offensive and defensive scheme designed to maximize opportunities to score a lot of points — for both sides. Players are told to shoot quickly and frequently and the team employs a high-risk, high-reward full court trap for the entire game, which often means certain players rarely even cross the half court line on defense. Arsenault’s teams have led the nation in scoring in 17 of the last 19 years at any college level in America. Taylor’s teammate, Griffin Lentsch, scored 89 points in a game last November using the same system.

In this particular game, Taylor started off cold, but he was encouraged to keep shooting and by halftime he had 58 points (his previous career high was 48 points in high school). Sensing something special was happening, his teammates sacrificed their own shots and kept feeding Taylor the ball, much like Wilt Chamberlain’s teammates did on the historic night the Stilt scored 100 in an NBA game (and probably slept with his 20,000th woman on the same night). Taylor eventually caught fire like Katniss Everdeen and scored 28 consecutive points at one point before finishing with the incredible record which shredded the previous NCAA high of 113 by Bevo Francis in 1954.

Here is the link to the full game, or you can check out the highlights below.

Admittedly, there are a lot of people amazed and impressed by the performance, including NBA superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. But the praise has been overshadowed by the vitriol directed at Taylor, his team, his teammates, his opponents and his coach.

Here are some of the more common complaints.

He took 108 shots and 71 three-pointers in a single game with zero assists! What a hog!

Yes, Taylor took an insane number of shots. But how else would you expect someone to score 138 points? By standing around? By passing his teammates the ball? They were the ones who kept feeding Taylor the ball and encouraging him to score as many points as he could. He would never have managed it if they didn’t keep passing the ball to him, setting screens for him and getting him extra possessions with their full court trap.

The fact that he was able to take so many shots in 36 minutes is impressive in itself. It’s not like he tries to do this every game. It was just one of those nights where he was given free reign to launch. Basketball is a team game where everyone has a role. Taylor’s role on this night was to shoot as much as he could. He did it with the blessing and support of his coach and teammates.

In Chamberlain’s 100-point game, Wilt took 63 shots but had 32 free throw attempts, while Taylor only had 10. Chamberlain also played 12 more minutes. In Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, he played 42 minutes and took just 46 shots, but had 20 free throws attempts. And remember, Taylor scored 38 points more than Chamberlain and 57 points more than Kobe. Scoring 38 or 57 points in a single game is impressive enough, let alone 100 more than that. Wilt’s career average is around 30 points a game. Kobe has only scored more than 57 points four times in his entire career.

Zero assists? Big deal. Wilt and Kobe only had 2 assists each in their historic games. Plenty of guards at the elite level have recorded zero assist games, and none of them have ever scored 138 points.

He didn’t even shoot 50%! Anyone who takes that many shots can score 138 points!

This just shows a complete lack of understanding of basketball. 52 of 108 from the field is 48%, a rate which most basketball players at any level would take on any given night. The same goes for his 38% (27 of 71) shooting from three-point range (Reggie Miller, regarded as either the best or second best three-point shooter of all-time, averaged 39.5% from the three-point line for his career). They are not amazing percentages for a player having the game of his life, but they are certainly respectable, especially considering how many of his shots were jumpshots and not layups.

I’d also differ on the argument that anyone who takes that many shots can score 138 points. In an empty gym, maybe, but not in a proper game. If it were that easy and common we wouldn’t be talking about it.

Great scorers might be able to score that many points on that many shots against the right opponents, but the bigger difficulty is actually being able to attempt that many shots in a 40-minute game. I don’t care what anyone says, taking a shot every 20 seconds for 36 minutes straight while running around is extremely difficult to do regardless of the opponent.

His opponents were crap; my high school team could have beaten them

This may be true, but it’s been greatly exaggerated. The inept Faith Baptist may be 0-5 on their season but they are still a college basketball team in the NCAA (albeit Div III). No one is saying they are North Carolina, but let’s not pretend this was Michael Jordan dominating in the mentally challenged midget league. Taylor wasn’t playing in a backyard comp against his baby sister — he was playing in a proper game against an opponent deemed good enough to be in the same league. Let’s not forget, Faith Baptist scored 104 points of their own, which means at the very least that they are not complete amateurs and were competing.

Yes, your high school team might have been able to beat them, crush them even. But could anyone on that team score 138 points against them?

His opponents didn’t play any defense

Another myth espoused by haters who likely didn’t even see any game footage. They weren’t exactly good defenders but from what I could tell they sure tried. It wasn’t like they were daring him to shoot and allowing him open jumpers or offering a layup drill all night. They weren’t inviting him to put up 138 points and embarrass them, if that’s what anyone is suggesting.

The vast majority of Taylor’s shots were at least semi-contested or made in traffic. Most of them were made off the dribble in isolation situations. At times Faith Baptist double and triple teamed him and there’s no denying that Taylor made a bunch of difficult shots.

It’s sad that any time a player has a great offensive game critics are quick to blame the defense rather than give credit to the offense.

His opponents should have “done something about it”

It’s frightening how many people say Faith Baptist should have put Taylor on his backside or tried to cause him physical harm by attempting to score so many points on them in a game that was probably settled by halftime. This is not the bush league and the name “Faith Baptist” should have suggested that such tactics were unlikely.

“I will tell you, we tried,”said Faith Baptist coach Brian Fincham. “I’m not going to be cheap and foul or hit somebody. That’s not the type of program we’re going to be. But I’m proud of my guys and the effort they put in. Jack just had a great night.”

Some say it’s not a classy thing to run up the score against a hapless opponent, but it’s happened countless times before and no one ever scored 138 points.

“I wasn’t going to take a guy out who was in the zone,” Grinnell’s Arsenault said in defense of letting Taylor run wild. “I’ve never been in the zone like that, and if I was I certainly wouldn’t want my coach to end it for me. So we just let him go.”

Perhaps Faith Baptist could have slowed down their offense and run out the clock to minimize Grinnell’s possessions, but that was their choice to make. You can’t fault Grinnell or Taylor for making the most of their opponent’s strategy.

David Larson’s 70 points on 34 of 44 shooting was more impressive

Some critics have gone as far as to say that David Larson from Faith Baptist, who scored 70 points on 34 of 44 shooting against Grinnell on the same night, had the more impressive performance.

No it’s not.

First of all, his team got trounced. While Larson, who played all 40 minutes, scored at a much more efficient percentage (77%), the majority of his baskets came from close range after Grinnell’s high-risk full court press broke down (and broke down often). In fact, Larson’s performance was much more like an undefended layup drill than Taylor’s.

Oh, and by the way, Taylor almost doubled Larson’s point output.

So what? He wouldn’t score 10 points in the NBA!

By far the dumbest comment I’ve seen, and I’m surprised how many times I’ve come across something like it the last few days.

No one with half a brain is saying this guy is a future NBA star. No one’s even saying he’s the second coming of Jimmer Fredette. He’s going to have his 15 minutes of fame and that’ll be the end of it. But what is wrong with that?

Taylor’s 138-point game is what it is — a once-in-a-lifetime freakish occurrence where everything fell into line at the right place at the right time. It was the culmination of coach Arsenault’s system, Faith Baptist’s less-than-stellar defense and refusal to slow the game down, Taylor’s teammates and coach helping him along the way, and of course, Taylor catching fire like he has never before and probably never will again. But most record-setting performances in basketball are a combination of circumstances, luck and skill, and I don’t see why this was any less amazing just because it happened in Div III of the NCAA.

Perhaps Kobe said it best: “I don’t care what level you’re at. Scoring 138 points is pretty insane.”

LeBron said he couldn’t even do it in a video game, noting that he would have to mess with the rules and ratings and sliders to be able to accomplish it.

Accordingly to Taylor’s critics, however, it was nothing special. I’m not sure what would impress them. Perhaps it needs to be an NBA player who shoots 70% from the floor while racking up a triple-double and hits the game winner as well — in addition to the 138 points, of course. Then again, my guess is even then it will never be enough for the haters.

I’m not saying Taylor should start being compared to Wilt or Kobe or even Tyler Hansbrough, but I think it’s unfortunate so many people are so quick to shoot down what is clearly a remarkable achievement which should be appreciated and respected, in context or otherwise.

 

Mosley Back-Pedals to UD Loss in Rare Pacquiao Stinker

May 8, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

By Manny Pacquiao’s ordinarily lofty standards as the pound-for-pound king and the most exciting boxer in the world, his 12 round unanimous victory over future Hall-of-Famer Shane Mosley was a complete stinker.  I’d actually probably say it was one of his worst fights ever from an action and excitement perspective.

So what the heck happened?  Even at 39, Shane Mosley was expected to be a good opponent for Pacquiao not because he posed a serious threat, but because he’s been known throughout his career as a skilled, exciting boxer with speed and power, and most importantly, liked to trade shots with the other guy.

Instead, this Mosley essentially back-pedaled all night (worse than Cotto in those last few rounds, and Mosley wasn’t even seriously hurt), all the way out of the ring and straight to the bank to collect his cool $5 million bucks for this sham of a fight (Pacquiao got a guaranteed $20 million).  I’m a little angry and very disappointed, because Mosley talked it up and made it seem like he was going to hunt Manny down like Team 6 on Osama.  He exuded confidence because, as he said, Pacquiao likes to trade, and that’s what’s going to give him an opportunity to knock Pacquiao out.  But when the time came, Mosley did jack all.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt before the fight despite his last two performances (against Mayweather and Mora), but he’s a shot fighter.  No doubt about it.  He just can’t pull the trigger anymore.  This wasn’t an Oscar de la Hoya situation where Pacquiao didn’t give him the opportunity to get his punches off.  Mosley just didn’t want to throw.

How the fight unfolded

After a pretty decent undercard which I missed, Mosley entered the ring first with LL Cool J rapping ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ alongside him (how ironic).  Pacquiao entered next to ‘Eye of the Tiger’, sung live (or lip-synched) by Survivor.  All good up to this point.  Everyone was hyped.  Jamie Foxx sang a song and everyone cheered.

The first round was a ‘feel out’ round where neither guy did much, but Pacquiao clearly won because he at least tried to engage a little.  Mosley just threw a few jabs in the air and kept moving back whenever Pacquiao looked like he might throw a punch.  But at least he was sharp, and I thought perhaps he was sizing Manny up and getting ready to go all out in the next round.

But in round 2 Mosley did more of the same.  Pacquiao turned it up a notch, but not by much.  He did have a couple of brisk moments where the crowd went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ from his combinations, but by and large it was uneventful.

Round 3 turned out to be probably the best round of the fight because Pacquiao managed to land a couple of big shots (a left and a right) that put Mosley on his backside.  Mosley got up at about the count of 5, but from the stunned expression on his face and the wobbly legs it looked like he was ready to go.  However, Pacquiao didn’t really go after him with full force and Mosley survived.

If Mosley was tentative up to that point in the fight, after the knockdown, it was much much worse.  I couldn’t believe the bigger guy, the supposedly stronger guy, was running so much.  It was embarrassing to watch, and frustrating for the fans who paid good money to see what they thought would be an action-packed bout.

From round 4 onwards, Mosley just back-pedaled and Pacquiao chased.  Apparently in this round Pacquiao cramped his calf, which made mobility an issue for the remainder of the fight, a possible reason why he didn’t go after Mosley harder than he did.  Rounds 4 to 9 were really a complete blur in my memory because they were all the same.  Mosley refusing to engage and Pacquiao bringing brief moments of fake excitement whenever he landed a few blows before Mosley darted away again (it got so bad that the crowd cheered whenever Pacquiao got close to Mosley).

In round 10, the best possible thing that could happen in this fight happened.  Mosley clearly pushed an off-balance Pacquiao to the canvas, but referee Kenny Bayless inexplicably ruled it a knockdown (he apologised later).  Freddie Roach was fuming, and Pacquiao was bewildered, but soon the bewilderment turned to anger and he finally started putting his punches together and sprinted after Mosley instead of just stalking him.  At last, Pacquiao started belting Mosley with powerful combinations, but Mosley turned it up a gear and ran even faster, managing somehow to survive until the final bell.

Not surprisingly, boos rained down throughout the slower parts of the fight, and who could blame them?  Mosley looked like he had zero intention of trying to win the fight, and the only thing he cared about was walking away without a permanent injury (so he can snuggle up to his hot new 21-year-old girlfriend, who received the second loudest ovation after Pacquiao at the venue where I watched the fight).  At least against Joshua Clottey, Clottey covered up most of the night.  Mosley just ran.

The final scorecard: 120-108, 120-107 and 119-108.  This was quite astonishing, considering they used a ’10-point must’ scoring system for the 12 rounds and Pacquiao was ruled as having been knocked down in round 10.  Usually when a boxer is knocked down, the round automatically becomes a 10-8 in favour of the guy who scored the knockdown, but the fact that Pacquiao received perfect scores from 2 judges and only lost a point on the other, showed just how pathetially hopeless Mosley was on this night.

Final thoughts

What a stinker of a Pacquiao fight. Average or slightly above average compared to your run of the mill boxing match, but a stinker by Pacquaio’s standards.

Pacquiao was disappointed afterwards and showed it in the interview, because he knew he didn’t give fans what they wanted to see.  He complained about the lack of willingness to engage on Mosley’s part and his calf injury.  He was almost completely unmarked after the fight, whereas Mosley’s face was puffy and bruised, and was forced to wear sunglasses in the post-fight interview.

I had predicted that Pacquiao would be the first to knock Mosley out (he did pretty well by just being the second person — after Vernon Forrest — to knock Mosley down) because I thought Mosley would try and trade.  I think from what we saw in the fight, if Mosley did decide to trade, he almost certainly would have been carried out on a stretcher.  How he fooled everybody, including even his own trainer, Nazim Richardson, who pleaded all night for Mosley to do something.

I don’t really blame Pacquiao for what transpired here.  His job, first and foremost, is to win the fight, which he was doing with absolute ease.  He didn’t have to do much to dominate this bout.  Why risk anything if you can just coast your way to a victory?  I just wish he wasn’t so friendly to Mosley, allowing him to escape from the corner whenever he had him seemingly trapped, and not going after him until the 10th round knockdown error by the referee.  If the error occurred earlier the fight probably would have been less burdensome to watch.

That reminds me of a couple of things I noticed about the fight that really irked me.  One was that Pacquiao and Mosley would touch gloves at the start and end of every round and after just about every accidental head butt (there were a few) and separation by the referee.  I mean come on, it’s good to be friends after the fight but not in the ring.  They even hugged at the beginning of the 12th and final round.  It made me feel like Shane was just saying: thanks for giving me the chance to steal $5 million; I just fooled the world into thinking I was going to fight, but I was really here just to collect my paycheck and try and get out with my brain in one piece.

The second thing was Shane’s corner always taking an extra 5-10 seconds between rounds to get out of the ring.  I thought it was an obvious ploy to give Shane more time to recover so he can run faster the next round, and the referee should have at least warned them.

What’s next

Pacquiao’s next opponent will probably be Juan Manuel Marquez, who really wants to fight Pacquiao after believing he was robbed in two previous decisions (a draw and a loss).  Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum already sent an offer to Marquez, which he turned down, and they are sending a revised version to him.  Perhaps they were offering too little money, or perhaps he didn’t like the weight (which would almost certainly be welterweight).

Arum says if Marquez backs out then the next best option is Timothy Bradley, a legitimate young stud and title holder.  Not sure if a real danger for Pacquiao, but with Mayweather nowhere to be found, the best that could be hoped for.  Andre Berto might be in the mix, but he’s not as attractive now that he’s got a loss on his record (recently to Victor Ortiz).  And the other guy in the pound-for-pound chatter, Sergio Martinez, is just too big at 154 pounds.

I hope Pacquiao does take on Marquez again, because I think it’ll be a good fight.  Marquez is the only guy that has given Pacquiao real trouble since 2005, though I think it will be a massacre at 147 pounds.  A brutal, bloody massacre that will shut everyone up about Marquez’s earlier success against Pacquiao.

As for Shane Mosley, please retire and ride off into the sunset with your hot young girlfriend.  You’ve had a glorious career but you crapped all over your legacy tonight.  At least you got 5 million bucks out of it.

 
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